Since the Taliban’s rise to power in 2021, governments around the world have refrained from recognizing the Afghan regime due to its violent takeover. However, the Taliban is now making an audacious bid to join China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, a move that could significantly impact its international standing.
Afghanistan’s acting commerce minister, Haji Nooruddin Azizi, has revealed that the Taliban administration is actively pursuing participation in the Belt and Road project. To take this endeavor forward, a technical team from Afghanistan is set to engage in discussions with Chinese authorities.
China’s Unconventional Engagement
China, in stark contrast to most nations, has been proactive in its approach to engage with the Taliban-run government. Last month, China became the first country to appoint an ambassador to Kabul, demonstrating its willingness to maintain official ties with the Afghan administration.
Azizi stated that Afghanistan has approached China with a request to become part of both the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Belt and Road Initiative. These ambitious infrastructure projects aim to bolster connectivity and trade across the region. Technical discussions between the two parties are currently underway.
Potential Benefits and Obstacles
While the Taliban-led Afghanistan may still be under scrutiny for human rights violations, its vast untapped mineral wealth presents an attractive prospect for China. The nation could access valuable resources, including lithium, copper, and iron, essential for its growing economy. In return, Afghanistan seeks infrastructural development, technical support, and financial investments to rejuvenate its stagnant economy.
However, concerns about security persist, with groups like ISIS posing a significant threat. Nevertheless, Azizi emphasized that security is a top priority for the Taliban-led government, and the relative stability in many areas makes the country an appealing investment destination. As Afghanistan and 34 other countries explore opportunities in digital economy and green development, their engagement in the Belt and Road Forum could shape the region’s economic landscape.